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Meikhtila USDA holds pro-government rally

Oct 3, 2007 (DVB), The Union Solidarity and Development Association continues to organise pro-government rallies to counter recent public demonstrations, but one has been postponed due to fears their message could by diverted by anti-government protestors.

Yesterday in Meikhtila, local residents were offered money to attend a mass rally organised by the USDA to counter recent public protests in Burma and show support for the National Convention, according to residents of the Mandalay town.

Meikhtila residents told DVB that township authorities passed orders to village and ward administration officials to round up thousands of locals to attend the rally and march across the town chanting slogans opposing the recent protests.

"The USDA members followed the march on motorbikes and in cars and chanted slogans denouncing the monks’ protests…. We had to chant after them whatever they asked us to," said a local who joined the rally.

"It was burning hot and we had to walk a very long distance across the town," he added.

One resident of a village near Meikhtila said that village authorities had told them they would be rewarded with 1,000 Kyat each if they agreed to join the rally, but they were not given the money afterwards.

"They didn’t even provide us with food during the rally. We were given, not 1,000 Kyat, but only two candies and drinking water during the walk," he said.

He added that villagers were even more furious to find out from an invoice to the township authorities that the village authorities had received money to be given to villagers for their walk, but had instead kept it for themselves.

No government harassment or security presence was reported during the USDA-led protest.

A separate USDA-organised rally that had been planned for mid-September the in Tharawaddy, Bago township, has been put on hold because authorities fear that those forced to attend could turn it into an anti-government protest.

"They kept postponing the date for the rally as there have been real protests staged by monks and civilians across Burma. . . At one point in the rally, the people giving speeches on state will ask the audience if they agree with the National Convention and everyone has to chant back. 'Yes. Yes. Yes'. They are worried that people will start chanting ‘No’ at this point and turn the rally in the opposite direction," said a resident of Tharawaddy.

Reporting by Aye Nai and Naw Say Phaw

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